Welcome to the Future: Mushrooms Eating Cigarette Butts

The year is 2030, and you are on a terrace in Melbourne. You have a bag full of cigarette butts. As the cockatoos twirl in the afternoon sun, you feed these ciggies to a shelf of oyster mushrooms.

Now, this little slice of sci-fi has a legit chance of becoming a reality. Because this very year, two companies have teamed up to create the CigCycle programme. CigCycle will determine if 2023 oyster mushrooms can transform our plastic cigarette butts into a new recyclable material.

But which two companies have taken on such an ambitious project? Well, it’s the charity No More Butts and the mycology-centred Fungi Solutions.

“The fungi have incredibly adaptive digestive systems, so they can get used to eating challenging materials,” said Amanda Morgan, the Founder of Fungi Solutions.

“We’re hoping that over time and with generations of cultivation, the fungi will become more targeted towards digesting cigarette butts. Then we hope to see them partially decompose the filter materials and break down some of the toxic components to create a clean by-product.”

Meanwhile, No More Butts are hopeful this project will work because cigarette butts are rubbish for the environment

As Shannon Mead, the Founder of No More Butts, said, “Even when people do the right thing and dispose of their cigarette butts the correct way, once they hit the waste stream and end up in landfill, they begin leaching damaging pollutants like arsenic and lead into waterways and soil systems. It takes about 15 years for plastic cigarette filters to break down.”

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time No More Butts and Fungi Solutions have teamed up to run a CigCycle programme. Back in 2021, they launched a two year trial of it with support from the Wollongong City Council. This trial determined that oyster mushrooms can remove most of a cigarette butt’s toxins. 

Let’s just hope that CigCycle can get their mushroom’s perfect in 2023 or a few short years. Then after that, bring on the future. 

Related: Unpacking Australia’s Soft Plastic Recycling Roadmap

Related: Five of the Easiest Vegetables to Grow In an At-Home Patch

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